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Festival kicks off with Rai music

The 25th edition of Nantes’ Festival des 3 Continents kicked off on the captivating tunes of rai, Algerian traditional music. Singer Abderrahman Djalti, also the star of one of the documentaries on show, Jamel Fezzaz’s La mélodie de l’espoir (Melody of Hope), unwrapped the opening ceremony singing a song usually performed during circumcision ceremonies.
The quarter of a century anniversary of Nantes’ 3 Continents was introduced as an unexpected achievement for a festival that started small in 1979, and became bigger and bigger through the years, as it unstoppably explored new territories and expanded the boundaries of world cinema. Nantes in fact has been always questioning the familiar notions on the history of cinema, bringing to light authors and national cinemas with adventurous retrospectives, and has constantly devoted itself to the strenuous search for new talents.

In their introductory notes, brothers and co-founders Alain and Philippe Jalladeau evoked the changes they’ve been witnessing in their 25 years long commitment to three continents: on the one side, they registered the death of big industries, collapsed in front of the Hollywood mammoth, American cinema, as for example Indonesian cinema, on the other, they acknowledged the birth or the renaissance of other cinemas, such as the recent resurgence of production in Argentina. Philippe Jalladeau then paid homage to some late directors who aptly represented the idea behind 3 continents, Egyptian Salah Abou Seif, Philippines’ Lino Brocka and Brazil’s Glauber Rocha, and stated that luckily cinema has gone on despite the sorrowful death of those friends, claiming the role that Nantes had in the discovery of new masters of world cinema, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami and Wong Kar-wai, who all had their first birth into prominence at 3 Continents.

In order to celebrate this watershed anniversary the festival programmes a sidebar, “25 years of great moments and discoveries”, collecting a wide range of titles that have been making Nantes’ history; featured titles include, among others, Hou’s Boys from Fengkuei, Kiarostami’s Where Is My Friend’s House?, Souleyman Cissé’s Baara, Arturo Ripstein’s The Empire of Fortune and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kasaba. Three directors, representative of both the three continents and of three generation of filmmakers, where on stage to represent the retrospective look on Nantes’ highlights: grandmaster of Brazilian Cinema Novo Nelson Pereira Dos Santos, who made the trip to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his classic Vidas Secas; Tunisian Nacer Khemir, recipient of the Mongolphière d’Or in 1984 for his enchanting Les Baliseurs du Desert and China’s Jia Zhang-ke who received double nods in Nantes, for Xiao Wu in 1998 and for Platform in 2000.

Next, brothers Jalladeau pointed out the wide scope of Nantes’ interests, a festival that’s simultaneously projected on the past, the present and the future. The awareness towards a past always rich of unseen gems is this year testified by an appetizing choice of retrospectives, including an exciting cavalcade through 70 years of Chinese cinema, a tribute to father-founder of Brazilian cinema Humberto Mauro, an intriguing look at “Bollywood and before” and a never-seen-before introduction to the history of Central American cinemas.

The attempt to accurately portray the present state of things in 3 continents’ cinema is instead the main focus of the competition, featuring this year Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye Dragon Inn, Locarno’s Golden Leopard winner Silent Waters, by Pakistani femme director Sabiha Sumar, plus entries from Vietnam (Le Hoang’s Bar Girls), Malaysia (Ho Yuhang’s Min) and Kazakhstan (Ordinary People by Nariman Turebaiev). Tracking down today’s tendencies is also the aim behind two other programmes: a selection of Nigerian “home videos”, films made on DV with shoestring budgets that have been creating sensation in the African country, developing a fertile industry and perhaps the receptive ground for new promising filmmakers and a new space for documentaries, featuring a competition too. Most notable among the documentaries on show is Wang Bing’s celebrated 9-hours epic West of the Tracks.

Finally, the eye that Nantes keeps on the future comes in the form of a production scheme intended to support films coming from the South, “Produire au Sud” (To produce in the South). Young producer were invited in Nantes from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Nigeria, Iran, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand to present the projects they’re currently developing in a workshop meant to aid them through financial, legal and promotional support. Kazakh competition entry Ordinary People was a project nurtured by “Produire au Sud”.
After the joyful parade of directors and young producers, a new performance from a Nantes acoustic ensemble led to the screening of inaugural film, Wang Xiaoshuai’s Drifters. Premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, the sixth feature by mainlander Wang is a tense and sensitive melodrama set in South East China, where the fever for illegal immigration still remains a plague, leading to risky transoceanic trips. Wang centres on Hong Yusheng, a young guy who’s been illegally living in the US. There he had an affair and a son with the daughter of his patron, the owner of the restaurant in which he was a dishwasher. Subsequently forced to sign a contract in which he gave up his fatherhood rights and afterwards denounced to immigration authorities, Yusheng is now faced to the difficult choice whether to stand up for his rights and give a new course in his lazy and spoiled life, as his child has been brought to the motherland by his grandfather. Attentively written and carefully directed, Wang’s film deserves praise for the subtle way in which it deals with themes such as bonding and parenthood and is remarkably distinguished by a superlative performance from lead actor Duan Long.

Paolo Bertolin

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